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Three Days in Savannah

A few days before the long, Memorial Day weekend, my little family impulsively decided to book a flight down south. Savannah, Georgia is so wildly picturesque. It was impossible to take a bad photo with such gorgeous background props as Spanish moss, Federal and Victorian Regency architecture, verdant squares, sunny skies, and live oaks. I felt like a better (more zen) person, mostly because everyone was so kind (it also probably didn’t hurt that I was in ‘vacation mode’).

Case in point: at an intersection when the pedestrian crosswalk sign was OFF and the cars had a GREEN go signal, traffic still stopped for my husband and I to cross the street. Hours after checking in to the romantic and historic Gastonian¬†Bed & Breakfast, my husband I were approached to be filmed in a segment on “Romantic Georgia”¬†tourism. Basically, we’re silver screen celebrities in the state.¬†It was too magical!

We stayed in¬†The Gastonian, located just blocks from Savannah’s beautiful Forsyth Park, consists of two adjoining luxury mansions built in 1868. The experience feels like a charming time-warp, replete with communal breakfasts made-to-order daily, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, conversational concierges who are local experts, period style furnishings, and a perfectly manicured lawn. We slept in a room called the Julia Scarborough, named for the wife of a¬†nineteenth-century British-American businessman and cotton broker who became one of the wealthiest people in the southeastern United States. The inn was also incredibly walkable to everything in the historic district.

Must Visits:

  • Leopold’s Ice Cream – A restored¬†marble soda fountain with a storied family history, featuring regular and seasonal flavors, as well as classic sandwiches like Pimento Cheese and Olive.
  • Local 11 Ten –¬†Situated a block south of Savannah’s Forsyth Park, the restored 1950’s-era downtown bank houses a casual, elegant restaurant devoted to popular southern flavors using local ingredients such as fresh seafood caught from Georgia’s coast. We went crazy for the warm marinated castelvetrano olives with prosciutto, candied ginger, orange juice, and cornbread. Don’t miss dining¬†in front of an¬†historic Mosler co. bank vault.
  • Bonaventure Cemetery –¬†Though not Savannah‚Äôs oldest cemetery, Bonaventure is certainly its most famous and hauntingly beautiful. Quintessentially Southern Gothic, it has captured the imaginations of writers, poets, naturalists, photographers and filmmakers for more than 150 years. Part natural cathedral, part sculptural garden, Bonaventure transcends time. My husband and I were proud to visit during Memorial day and to pay homage to our nation’s¬†soldiers.
  • SCAD Museum of Art –¬†The museum’s collection of more than 4,500 pieces includes works of haute couture, drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, prints and more.¬†The museum building itself is a work of art, demonstrating a¬†commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Constructed in 1853, the original walls feature handmade Savannah gray bricks, forming the oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot in the country. In 2011, this National Historic Landmark was transformed into an award-winning, modern museum building by architect Christian Sottile, a SCAD alumnus. During our visit, we saw clothing¬†by¬†Vivienne Westwood and massive installation Xu Bing.
  • Congregation Mickve Israel – Originally founded in 1733, this house of worship is the third-oldest Jewish congregation in America. Forty-two¬†intrepid Jews set sail from England aboard The William and Sarah with little more than their beloved Torah (which the Congregation still uses annually in our anniversary Shabbat service). They arrived in Savannah, a border colony town with an innovative vision for religious tolerance, to start their lives anew in a land of freedom.¬†The story of its congregants is the story of America. Not to mention, the impressive gothic revival¬†architecture!
  • The Collins Quarter – This must be the best coffee in Savannah. Serving cold brew,¬†Toby’s Estate coffee, this concept cafe brings¬†Australia‚Äôs caf√© capitol to Georgia. The service is a bit lax, but the fresh fare is worth the wait. I humbly suggest a mint lemonade or a¬†lavender mocha.
  • Tybee Island – A small beach town, with an even smaller artist enclave, this island is a perfect Savannah day trip,¬†just 18 miles from the city. The barrier beach is around a 2 mile stretch and didn’t even feel crowded on Memorial Day weekend. Housed inside a vintage trailer at 1209 Highway 80, we stopped for delicious,¬†from scratch, gelato near the Seaside Sister, and then double-treated ourselves to cold drinks at the charming¬†Tybean Art & Coffee Bar.
  • Angel’s BBQ – This snug mom-&-pop offering is tucked away on a side street. The hours are simple, they remain open from¬†11:30 am until whenever they sell out of ‘cue for the day! The homemade sauces cleverly titled like, ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ and their collared greens with peanuts and mac n’ cheese are exceptional. My favorite taste of the day were the ‘Angel Drops,’ a¬†North Carolina vinegar-based sauce, made with Savannah Bee Comany honey ‚Äď sweet and tangy.
  • Red Clover – The best friend opened boutique¬†is¬†named after a unique bloom found in nature, because those who shop at the eclectic store¬†are just that. The nicely curated and sourced shop doesn’t breaking the bank!
  • Circa 1875 – Simply put, it’s an¬†unpretentious Parisian bistro and pub serving traditional French cuisine, with full flavor, and a friendly staff. Get a glass of wine.

As one of the oldest cities in the nation, Savannah exudes old world charm.

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Escape to Capri

My good friend Meg¬†K. Adams, just went on a totally enviable trip to the Tyrrhenian Sea off of Italy’s coast. In short, she went to Capri! This island in the Gulf of Naples, is famed for its rugged landscape, upscale beach resorts and high-end shops selling handmade leather sandals and signature limoncello liqueur. Its skyline is a veritable rainbow of hyper¬†saturated greens, whites¬†and reds. However, it’s clear that blue is the predominate hue! Although Meg didn’t love Naples itself (she said it was pretty dirty and seedier than expected), she did contest to being able to find delicious fire-brick oven pizza at any side street – she chowed down in San Ferdinando, a southern district of Naples, on Via Partenope.

On the island of Capri, just about 12,000 residents call the limestone block home – yet as many as 20,000 visitors flock there daily in the busy season – doubling its capacity!¬†You might be familiar with Capri without even realizing it.¬†The Caprese salad gets its name from “salad of Capri” which is tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil with seasoning of salt and olive oil.

Capri’s most famous square is called Piazza Umberto I, but it’s locally¬†known as “La piazzetta” (the square) or ”a chiazz”. ¬†You can see it above with its gloriously strung festival lights. Meg stayed at the¬†Hotel Relais Maresca, whose name means Sea View. She says that it was wonderful. There are¬†fancier abides¬†on the island, but everyone¬†at the hotel¬†was so nice and the views were spectacular. Meg exclaims, “We slept out on our balcony for part of a night just because we could!”

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Featuring Aldo, Banana Republic, American Eagle, American Apparel, Baublebar and more.

Meg’s Packing Hints:

  1. Buy a converter and then immediately lose it and have to buy a hair dryer in the UK.
  2. Wear jumpsuits everywhere you go.
  3. Order a new swimsuit that you are completely uncertain of sizing. Don’t think to order until a few days before you leave so that if it IS the wrong size, you are completely out of luck.
  4. Walk so much you have to leave your shoes behind because they are now full of holes.
  5. Disregard the logical amount of clothing you need for your trip and just PACK EVERYTHING. Leverage your Midwestern charm at the airport so they don’t charge you for your bag being WAY overweight.

Shop Meg’s Capri Closet:

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A Family Road Trip in Israel

My father is Middle Eastern. I have been to Israel a few times, but never with him, and never through the eyes of a local and native. There was something magical about seeing where my father grew up. There was something so lovely about imagining him, young, unwrinkled, touching the shores of the Mediterranean Ocean. It was all so dreamlike. My husband and I are both the children of immigrant fathers – his from Morocco and mine from Israel. We first bonded over having fathers that did not quite understand America’s love of baseball, fathers that prepared strange foods (Shakshuka, Albondigas), and fathers that still saw America as a land of great hope and social change.

When I was married in August, 2013, my father had one wish. He really wanted to bring his new son (my husband, Michael) to his native homeland. The three of us embarked on an epic journey to Haifa, Megiddo, Gamla, Tiberias, Caesarea, Bethlehem, the Mount Beatitudes, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Golan Heights. Oh my!

Jaffa Old Port, Israel 2014 via The Walkup

The ancient port city of Jaffa is famous for its a lighthouse, known as Jaffa Light, that is located above the port. From its base one can look at multiple synagogues, mosques and stone-streets in one direction, and the modern city of Tel Aviv, with its looming skyscrapers, in the other direction.

TheShuk, Tiberias and Tel Aviv via The Walkup

The beaches of Israel are world famous.¬†¬†This small country is blessed with three seas ‚ÄĒ the Mediterranean, the Dead and the Red (the Sea of Galilee, also known as The Kinneret, is really a lake, though it does have beaches too). ¬†The Shuks, the word for an outdoor marketplace, can be found in every major city throughout the country. My favorite Shuk was in Acre (Acco). These strawberries were so juicy, and the fresh pomegranate, pomelo and orange juices are a huge (and cheap) treat.

Rosh HaNikra and Ancient Aqueducts via The Walkup

Driving towards the tip of the country in the north, we casually passed ancient Roman aqueducts! These connect to Caesarea, a marina from antiquity named by King Herod in honor of Augustus Caesar. For some time, this bustling port was considered a center of early Christianity. It was also conquered by the Byzantine empire, the crusaders, and more. On the site exists a hippodrome, an amphitheater and many old bathing houses.

On the cliffs of Rosh Hanikra,  a geologic formation in located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Galilee, we found white chalk cliffs face opening into beautiful grottoes. We took a small, red cable-car to the site on the Lebanese border. The mode of transport claimed to be the steepest cable car in the world, with a 60 degrees gradient!

Bahai Temple in Haifa, Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem by The Walkup

The Bahai Temples in Haifa are a practice in perfect symmetry. The gardens boast identical stairways, lights, balustrades, fountains, shrubbery and lawns. These gorgeous gardens are on the World Heritage List. Known as the Shrine of the Báb, this magnificent hanging garden sits atop Mount Carmel, one of the highest vantage points in all of Haifa, Israel. They are one of the most visited tourist attractions in Israel.

A encountered a small boy lighting candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old City, Jerusalem. He kindled the flames at an altar steps from where Jesus was buried. Outside, the market continued at its busy pace and men were selling halva, nuts and Turkish delights.

Haifa at night, Bethlehem, Acco by The Walkup

A well needed cup of morning coffee came from Lavazza, one of the only companies that seems to believe in “to-go” cups throughout Israel. People tend to enjoy their coffee while seated with friends, over a paper, or in the retreat of a cafe seat. The day entailed a visit into Bethlehem, but ended with a gorgeous nightscape over the Mediterranean.

Fishing in the North, Jachnun and Shabbat in Tel Aviv

On Saturday, or Shabbat, most people are sleepily relaxing. Storefronts were closed, and family were taking days at the beach. A specific dish known as Jachnun, a slow-cooked Yemenite Jewish pastry, could be found at many brunch spots around Tel Aviv.

Old City Jerusalem by The Walkup

In many ways, this country is both ancient and modern. It boasts a booming tech culture, and yet retains its footing in history. Its richness of art and culture expertly blend new and old.

What will you discover when you explore your father’s hometown?